Some gardeners will not grow Berberis because of their aggressive thorns, but many of the berberis family make com-pact and beautiful shrubs which are well worth their space. I suggest growing them not in the mixed border, where you will have to work among them, risking damage to your hands and eyes, still less as a hedge, which may wound you as much as invading burglars and cats, but in a shrub bank, where you need not go near them except to admire.
Berberis thunbergii, a native of Japan, is a neat deciduous shrub from 3 to 5 feet (90 to 150 cm) high with light greenwhich take on a fiery autumn colour. It has red berries in late summer. ‘Atropurpurea’ has purple leaves which open early in the year and deepen in colour in autumn. But the most striking variety is ‘ Glow’, with variegated pinkand-purple leaves on all the young shoots. There are small yellow in summer, nestling among the clusters of leaves.
Grown on a bank, ‘Rose Glow’ could be tucked among grey-leaved shrubs and variegation.
Sub-shrubs, like Phlomis fruticosa and the large, sprawly lavender, usually listed as ‘Dutch’. For spring, there could beof white narcissi which, once planted, would look after themselves. For later months, foxgloves could be allowed to naturalize, and Japanese (A. x hybrida) could ramp as they please without invading other plants, as they do in the herbaceous border.
Berberis likes full sun and reasonably good soil, so work in humus at planting time. It does not need.